Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference Finals to Oklahoma City Thunder (6 games)
Draft picks: None (Marcus Denmon, lone draft pick, signed to play in Europe)
Signings/trades: Nando de Colo, Eddy Curry, Derrick Brown, Josh Powell, Sherron Collins, Wesley Witherpsoon
James Anderson, Derrick Byars
Projected starting lineup
C - Tim Duncan
PF - Boris Diaw
SF - Kawhi Leonard
SG - Danny Green
PG - Tony Parker
What to expect
The San Antonio Spurs had a very disappointing end to their 2012 campaign. After taking a 2-0 lead over the Thunder in the midst of a 20-game win streak during the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs proceeded to drop the next four games, ending what was looking to be a historic season.
As you can see from the offseason additions and subtractions above, not much has changed. San Antonio will be trotting out the same starting five that took the floor in Game 6 against Oklahoma City, and its bench is essentially identical as well. You would think the Spurs would have made a move or two to try and improve, but they didn't.
The fact that San Antonio made no changes leads me to believe that we are going to see more of the same this season. The Spurs will be a very good team and probably finish with one of the league's best records, but when it comes down to it, they won't have enough firepower to take down the West's elite, namely the Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers.
That said, San Antonio is still extremely deep, bringing players like Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson off the bench. There is also that little thing called the trade deadline, so maybe the Spurs will decide to make a move by then? They should, because there is absolute potential here. This team didn't win 20 games in a row in 2012 for no reason.
The main question is, how much do the likes of Duncan and Ginobili have left? Duncan is 36, and Ginobili, at 35, always seems to be dealing with some kind of injury. Gregg Popovich will certainly limit their minutes much like he did last year, but at what point will that start proving to be futile?
Key player: Leonard
Leonard proved to be one of the best rookies of the 2011 draft class last season, demonstrating very good efficiency offensively and putting on an absolute clinic defensively. In order for the Spurs to take that next step this year, Leonard has to be even better.
Popovich recently said that Leonard will be the "face" of San Antonio soon, and that may very well happen once Duncan retires. The kid is good. Still, Leonard does not need to become the face just yet. All he needs to do is improve upon his stellar 2012 performance.
As stated earlier, Ginobili will not be getting big-time minutes during the regular season, so that's where Leonard comes in. Fortunately, Leonard also has Jackson there to take some of the pressure off of him, but regardless, he needs to improve.
Leonard especially needs to be ready against the likes of Oklahoma City and the Lakers, as he will be the one who draws the assignment of defending Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
Sleeper: Patty Mills
Mills was very impressive in limited action last year. Despite standing only six-feet tall, he shot 48.5 percent from the floor and connected on 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts. Do not be surprised to see the 24-year-old's playing time increase this season.
The kid certainly has talent. He has blinding quickness and can provide a spark off the pine like few others in the league. Mills' ability was on full display in a game against the Golden State Warriors late last season, when he scored 34 points and dished out 12 assists. That outing alone should earn him some more burn in 2012-13.
Parker is still the man in the backcourt for the Spurs, and Gary Neal is also there, but expect Mills to play a bigger role for Popovich this year.
Playoffs: Could get to Western Conference Finals
The San Antonio team we'll see this year will be very similar to the one we saw last year. Good enough to win 50-plus games and earn a high seed, and good enough to make a playoff run, but not quite good enough to go all the way.
Of course, that could all change with one trade, but as of right now, the Spurs are behind the likes of the Thunder and the Lakers in the West, and they will also see stronger competition throughout the rest of the improved conference.
I like San Antonio a lot as a ball club, and I think Popovich is an absolute genius, but I still think they are a piece away from getting to the finals.
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